Since the days of primary school, I have always tended to ask questions that were metaphysical and religious in nature. From basic elementary questions that consisted of who, what, where, when, and how, to questions set forth by well-established religious leaders, philosophers, and scientists alike. Born and raised in the In-wood neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City; upon the 5h floor of a high rise building in which I and my immediate family lived, I often found myself on cool summer nights gazing at the stars and constellations. I soon began to ask myself, “Is there life out there in the vast ocean of space; if so, were they created by an omnipotent being as Genesis signifies?” Questions like these lead me to search out the truth. However, it was not until the early 1980s, when the late renowned astronomer, Carl Sagan made his debut on PBS with a mini-series entitled “Cosmos,” that I decided to examine the questions set forth above, almost to the point of becoming an atheist. Although, I wasn't an atheist, I did identify with agnosticism. Agnosticism is the view that claims the existence or non-existence of any deity, in any religion, as unknown and unknowable. Therefore, I had resorted to the scientific explanations of things.
In Sagan’s 10th 'Cosmos' episode entitled, “The Edge of Forever,” he found himself asking the ultimate question “Does God Exist?” “If there is a God, where did He come from?” Since the day that particular episode aired, my inquisitive mind got the best of me. I started looking towards the Scriptures and other religious sources; comparing the two opposing views of natural science and that of the Eternal Being, thus resulting in a bias towards a speculative method of philosophy (which is probably the reason why I tend to collect books on science, cosmology, philosophy, and most important theology). By chance, on June 10, 1980 at the age of 15, I was invited to a local Bible believing church where I experienced the new birth, a transformation, and a new outlook on life while watching a showing of a film entitled “Image of the Beast,” a film about the apocalypse based on The Book of Revelation.
Afterward; I soon developed an identity with Jesus Christ, who I came to realize, is that Eternal Being. However, I did not cease in examining other religions, nor did I abandoned my love for science. Yet, during all this, I soon became actively involved in this local Bible believing church for 8 yrs. I also became well versed in Scripture and theology (such as it was) at a very young age, learning and questioning as I grew in Christ. At this particular church I received a scholarship certificate from The Word of Life Ministries that worked in conjunction with my church. Also, with this scholarship award, I was given a Ryrie Study Bible of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The footnotes at the bottom of this Bible were informative to say the least. However its primary teaching were that of mainstream fundamental Christianity, such as: the doctrine of dispensationalism, the rapture theory, the pre-tribulation concepts, and shades of Arminianism, (freewill), etc.
However, in Ryrie's commentary concerning Romans 9, 10, and 11, he had much to say about election. But for some odd reason, I felt that he was holding out on more information and truth. This is no doubt due to his Arminian belief system of freewill as opposed to predestination. And thus upon further examination, I was introduced to the doctrine of predestination as put forth by 4th cent Church father St. Augustine and Church Reformer of the 16th cent, John Calvin and others. The two opposing views (Calvinism and Arminianism) were studied by myself for the past thirty years, with a favored view and leaning toward Calvinism.
Eventually, as circumstances and growth in faith would have it, the two views once again clashed, a battle royal so to speak! Eventually this battle led me to seek an answer to put this to an end. But, I thought to myself the answer must coincide with Scripture as a WHOLE. That answer would not avail itself until some time later during my junior year in college. The answer was found in the classic teaching of Ultimate Reconciliation. But that was a long awaited answer still in the making. However, the manifestation of this long awaited answer took on the appearance of many forms before college. Such a form began to materialize with a decade of my life studying the two opposing views.
This form had its beginnings starting the age of 20. At the age of 20, I found employment at a local Christian bookstore named ‘Christian Publications Bookstore’ located in Manhattan, New York; near Time Square Broadway 42nd street. The bookstore was founded in the 1800s by The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church (A.B. Simpson). I was employed there for a decade. With so many Christian books available, I went bananas! Quenching my thirst for Christ!
At this book store, I had at my disposal; great classic books on theology, apologetic's, eschatology, commentaries, encyclopedias, Bible dictionary’s, Bible handbooks, great sermons on audio tapes & CD's, etc. Also at my disposal were books on Church history, works of Tyndale, Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, Moody, A.W. Tozer, MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, the list goes on and on. Also, the bookstore had its very own reference dept. In this dept, contained all the Greek and Hebrew texts of Scripture; Lexicons, Expositional books, and various concordances. Concordances of which I was only interested in volumes that contained the Greek and Hebrew meanings. Upon such, I WAS GREATLY INFLUENCED NOT TO BE TAKEN BY EVERY WIND OF DOCTRINE. Therefore, as a Reconciliationist; (as in the Ultimate Reconciliation of all men) I am careful not to distort the scriptures, but to uphold it.
After a few years, the bookstore had offered me a position of authority to become an Assistant Manager at their Camp Hill Location in PA, but I declined. When all was said and done, I received a certificate of appreciation. But, all this would not have been possible were it not for the transformation I had experienced through the Lord Jesus Christ and the regenerating power of The Holy Spirit back in 1980.
This transformation entailed a spiritual birth. As one can be born physically, one can also be born spiritually. This transformation can be called a regeneration of the heart. In this regeneration, I learned to turn over a new leaf. Thus, resulting in a new man and a new creation in Christ Jesus. Moreover, to symbolize and demonstrate my new life in Christ and death to sin, I was baptized on September 27, 1981. As I learned to put off old habits, I soon began aspiring to positive attributes in place of them, resulting in a sense of fulfillment that can only come from a total commitment to Christ. Even now, these attributes are self sustaining as I grow into a new and better creature.
My commitment to Christ Jesus has given me the ability to accept the things I can not change and the ability to change the things I can. When I sin, fall, and make a mistake; I can get up with confidence, fully knowing that in the process I’m made perfect through acknowledgment of my faults and tribulations. Although, we all have our own individual faults, victories, problems, blessings, and dreams of aspirations, I have come to view them all as a collective whole that can be beneficial to the overall development of ourselves (my personal identity included) once they are surrendered to Christ for further distribution, Amen.
As I grew in my identity with Christ, I began to branch out, resulting in a slow departure from my home church. Eventually, I started attending and visiting other denominations, always making sure they upheld the basic fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, such as; The deity of Christ, The virgin birth, The physical resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ, Salvation through Christ alone, Sin, The second coming of Christ, The Word of God as being inspired, judgment, Satan, etc.
As a result of branching out, I soon found myself involved in another church, where I became the director of The Evangelism Dept, Drama Director, and Assistant to the Senior Pastor. This continued for 6 years. I decided to give God my best, including all that I know and all that I’ve learned (such as it is) since the day of my regeneration, to be used for His glory and high calling. Although, I have been involved in different capacities within various local churches and volunteer organizations, (noble and beautiful as these ambitions are), I felt unsatisfied. I began to feel that God had a different calling for my life, a high calling.
This high calling began to rekindle latent, inactive, and dormant talents that have been submerged for far to long. Choosing to not just live the average life of punching in and punching out at my place of employment, I soon began directing my God given talents and spiritual gifts to broaden my own horizon, so I decided to enroll at a Christian College located in the Tribeca area of lower Manhattan, New York where I received academic honors. At College I decided to major in what I love the most; Theology/Bible and Philosophy. However, due to the rising cost of college tuition payments, I was unable to finish my goals, until I discovered a fairly inexpensive on-line Christian college website. It was through this website/school that I was able to finish my education. At present, I'm pursing my Doctorate. My overall aspiration is to be better equipped onto the Lord, always in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and willing to do what He may desire of me. Because, knowing who He is and what He has done for my life physically and spiritually continues to be the motivating factor to obey His calling and enhance my true identity in Christ.
Needless to say, the doctrine of the final restoration of all things, is a belief that I hold by faith & conscience, it is a fruitful truth - thus a warranted belief system. My faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. A person can believe in the doctrine of annihilation or eternal punishment, but they can never hope for its truth. But I can believe in the ultimate salvation of all and hope for its truth indeed. Therefore, according to my conscience it is the better & higher truth. For it is written that we know in part and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away with. For I see through a glass darkly - but then I shall know, even as I' am known. And now abideth, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of the three is love.
Thank You for Reading
In His Name (John 14:6)
Posted by Thomas Perez.